You can’t turn a pickle into a cucumber. I’ve always been an addict. This is how I stay sober.
Yesterday I didn’t enjoy a beautiful opportunity, or have the appropriate gratitude for its bounty. I focused on my frustration over things that I’m powerless over. I needed to make a different choice … trust … find my faith … and know that everything will be all right. I have tools. Not everyone is as lucky ….
Recent events are a stunning reminder of what can happen if I ever forget that I am, and always will be, an addict.
When I like something, I want more of it, and I want it now. That pretty much means anything and everything. When I was a kid, it was too much TV, candy, and boys. I can remember being four and having a mad crush on an unavailable toddler. Okay, he was six, but that’s not funny. Neither was my obsession. At four? There’s something not quite right about that.
In my teens, it was cigarettes and pot. Then came the three C’s: coffee, Cheetos, and Coke, diet, of course. The calorie savings were needed to compensate for the aforementioned cheese curls, chips, and carbs in general—the low fiber kind. There was LSD, and more boys. Almost always, the “bad ones.” It was all sprinkled generously with Boone’s Farm, and topped with a Quaalude or three.
In college, I played marathon sessions of poker, pinochle, and Risk—till the coke ran out—the other kind. There was also Boodles gin, and again with the boys. Oh, those nasty boys!
Post university, I graduated to playing Ms. Pac Man and Donkey Kong till the wee hours of the morning, when it was just me and the scary crackheads in the arcade. My own coke usage amped up, I ate cold pizza ‘round the clock, and developed a taste for fine wine and cognac. Interestingly, just about the only thing I wasn’t constantly craving was booze. I compensated for that with a fixation on an alcoholic who thought of little else.
Marijuana eventually brought me to my knees. That sometimes amuses people. “Let me know when you have a real problem.” Wikipedia defines addiction as “the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences.” I’m tired of debating whether pot qualifies. It does for me. I can’t smoke it like a lady, or a gentleman. I know that if I take one hit, I’ll be off and running. 24/7. There’s not a doubt in my mind.
There were still ashtrays on restaurant tables when I quit smoking cigarettes. I gave up weed more than a decade ago. In both instances, removing the substances from my life, and white knuckling it, was made possible thanks to self-righteous indignation. But, I was still a vulnerable, miserable addict.
Once I got into recovery a whole different deal started to happen. It was no longer just about not doing something, I became painfully aware of the crap I was doing. I’m intolerant, impatient, and unrelenting—high maintenance and exhausting. Control and perfectionism drive me.
Years of therapy hadn’t solved it. I learned how to work through situations but I didn’t have a clue how to change my reactions or alter my perceptions. Working the steps took me in and made me look around. It was dark in there, really dark. The program brought light.
I’ve abstained from substances and addressed the root causes of my addiction but, once an addict …. I still act out and the computer became my drug of choice; Facebook is my favorite brand. It won’t kill me—in many ways it feeds me—but it’s the way I do it. The compulsion is running the show.
I went from always being early to being chronically late. I’ve whiled away more hours the Facebook homepage than I can bear to think about. But I use it for my work; it continues to be directly responsible for the path of my success. It’s also the source of my social life to an enormous degree. When I look at where my life is now, little of it would be possible without Facebook. I attempt to use the force for good, but moderation has never been my strong suit. I challenge myself daily to get the hell off more often. Some days I’m more successful than others.
I can be disciplined doing what needs to be done, but I still can’t control my obsessions with anything I like unless I humbly seek assistance. Constantly. I’m not a love junkie any more. That’s something.
I have a sponsor, sponsees, a program, and a higher power. I go to meetings and check in with friends. If not for those things, yesterday, I well might have used. It’s not for lack of willpower, nor a choice. My brain is hotwired differently. I require vigilance, and will for the rest of my days. I’m an addict. I know I said that before ad nauseum. I think it bears repeating—again and again and again. My disease wants me to forget. It fucks with me constantly. I can’t think myself right. I can only do the right thing with a shitload of help.
I never stuck a needle in my arm, they scared me too much, thank God. In my early twenties I had surgery and was sliced open. I was given morphine to ease the pain. It’s been thirty years, but I can remember the feeling as if it were yesterday. It was the most euphoric sensation I’ve ever known, even more than falling in love, or meeting my babies. Now that’s scary! I remember saying aloud to myself, “Now I understand.”
I’ve heard heroin and its derivatives described as feeling like a warm blanket. For me, that morphine drip was like being in a velvet body Snuggie—with Sting—having tantric sex, whilst he sang Sister Moon gently in my ear, pausing only to tell me how smart, funny, beautiful, sexy and skinny I was, as he shot-gunned a bowl of ganja through a perfect kiss, while feeding me potato chips with Chubby Hubby ice cream, chased by a margarita on the rocks with salt.
Had that drug been administered for more than a day I wouldn’t have stood a chance of not chasing it forever.
Yesterday, life was not going according to my plan. People were not reading from my script, and the time-line was way off. I was hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. I wanted to rage and be vengeful. Then, I wanted to run and hide. I just wanted it to stop. The noise in my head was too loud. Then I thought of a broken hero now gone. And called my sponsor.
Bestselling author, performer, producer, promoter, and talk show host, Vicki Abelson, thrice appeared on Saturday Night Live, co-starred in a pilot for Comedy Central, and optioned a music reality show to Telepictures. Vicki is the creator and host of the celebrity-driven literary salon Vicki Abelson’s Women Who Write. Follow her on Twitter at @vickiabelson. This article was originally published in The Fix, 4/2/14.